ALBANY, New York, June 30, 2015 (ENS) – A statewide ban on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was made official across New York State on Monday, nearly a year after communities won the right to ban oil and gas development locally.
This action concluded New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s comprehensive, seven-year review and officially prohibits fracking anywhere in the state.
Joe Martens, head of the Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC, said in a statement, “After years of exhaustive research and examination of the science and facts, prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing is the only reasonable alternative.”
“High-volume hydraulic fracturing poses significant adverse impacts to land, air, water, natural resources and potential significant public health impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated,” Martens said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a ban in December, seven years after the state first issued a fracking moratorium.
On Monday the DEC issued a findings document that states, “Based on unavoidable adverse environmental impacts and uncertainty regarding the science surrounding high-volume hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts to public health and the environment, the Department finds that the best course of actions is to select the No Action alternative. Selection of the No Action alternative means that … [fracking] will be prohibited in New York State.”
In New York, the primary target for shale gas development is currently the Marcellus Shale, with the deeper Utica Shale also identified as a potential resource.
The Marcellus Shale is black, low density,marine sedimentary rock underlying much of the Appalachian Basin. It is named for a distinctive outcrop near the village of Marcellus, New York.
The shale contains untapped natural gas reserves, and its nearness to the high-demand markets along the U.S. East Coast makes it an attractive target for energy development and export.
The DEC said it has received many applications for permits to drill horizontal wells to evaluate and develop the Marcellus Shale for natural gas production by fracking.
Fracking facilitates natural gas extraction from large areas where conventional natural gas extraction is commercially unprofitable. So, says the DEC, well operations would likely be widespread across certain regions within the Marcellus Shale formation.
Distinct from conventional natural gas extraction technologies governed by the department’s 1992 Generic Environmental Impact Statement, GEIS, and related oil and gas permits, fracking involves much larger volumes of water and a cocktail of potential chemical additives. The exact recipe for this cocktail remains proprietary information that oil and gas drillers have chosen not to reveal.
Last December Acting New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered. I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done.”
“I asked myself, ‘Would I let my family live in a community with fracking?'” said Dr. Zucker. “The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”
Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg represented the Town of Dryden, New York, which won its precedent-setting fracking ban case one year ago.
“Today, nearly a year to the day after communities won the right to ban fracking, New York’s historic statewide ban on fracking is now the law of the land,” said Goldberg.
“We salute Governor Andrew Cuomo’s refusal to bow to industry pressure. He had the courage to do what no other state or federal leader has had the courage to do: let the available scientific evidence dictate whether fracking should proceed in New York.”
“Industry groups are threatening to sue, but the attorneys at Earthjustice are confident the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s robust Supplemental GEIS and today’s findings statement will withstand legal challenge, and we pledge to stand alongside the state in any legal challenge.”